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First shale gas exploration bidding by 2013-end: PM

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India will launch its first-ever bid round for exploration of by end of 2013, Prime Minister said today.

"The mapping of India's shale gas resources has been undertaken and we are working to put in place a regulatory regime for licensing rounds by end 2013," he said at the 7th Asia Gas Partnership Summit here.

The country has, so far, only explored and produced conventional oil and gas as well as unconventional sources such as methane (CBM).

Shale gas — gas trapped in sedimentary rocks below the earth's surface — is the new focus area in the US, Canada and China as an alternative to conventional oil and gas for meeting growing energy needs.

Six basins, namely Cambay, Assam-Arakan, Gondawana, KG onshore, Cauvery onshore and Indo Gangetic basins, have been identified that may have shale gas potential.

The government, Singh said, was pursuing the development of sources of unconventional gas such as shale gas and coal-bed methane.

"We are also harnessing coal bed methane for which four licensing rounds have been held and commercial production has commenced at Raniganj in West Bengal," he said. "As India has one of the world's largest coal reserves, we want to work with international companies having the requisite experience and expertise for exploitation of coal seam gas."

Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy said a National Gas Grid of nearly 30,000 km in length is planned to be built by 2017. The network with capacity of 875 million standard cubic metres per day will take natural gas to different markets across the length and breadth of India.

"India's crude gas pipeline capacity of 230 mmscmd is projected to quadruple in the next five years," he said.

Reddy said the nation's dependence on imported LNG is also projected to grow.

"To cater to the increase in imported LNG, we are in the process of increasing our current LNG handling capacity of 13.5 million tons per annum to about 50 million tons per annum by 2017," he said.

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